As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am taking part in Carly Marie’s Capture Your Grief.
Day 1 – 10 can be read here.
DAY 11 : CREATIVE HEARTWORK
Have you done anything special to memorialize your child? Maybe you got a tattoo or commissioned a piece of art to be created. Maybe you have a special piece of jewellery to remember them by or created a garden.
We have many things that creatively memorialise this aspect of our life; artwork that I adore, jewellery that we wear everyday, The Wife is half way through a tattoo, I started learning calligraphy and dabble with @minirobindesigns which was and is pure creative healing after we miscarried our little Robin – but ultimately, it’s all of it, my blog, this page, our fundraising : the legacy.
Leo’s legacy is my creative heartwork. I cannot sit still in this, this is our way of parenting him, of honouring him, of balancing out the shit that is his death. People ask me when we will stop fundraising? To me, that isn’t even a question – I can’t see that we will ever stop. We will get slower, and less intense, but how can we stop? How could we say “job done, our part in this fight is over, we’ve done enough?” If babies are still dying, then we aren’t finished.
I’ve never written outside academia before. But in the intense days of grief, it was literally all that calmed me and it still true now when I’m struggling or if something throws us. To make sense of it – I have to use words. Written. I’m getting better at explaining by speaking. But I actually ‘enjoy’ blogging, having and using my voice, making connections, having gentle debate, learning from others, being challenged in our grief.
I wish all I had to write about was my preferred brand of nappy cream. But I can’t, the nappy products go unopened, untouched for nearly a year in Leo’s room. Waiting.
DAY 12 : LEMONS AND LEMONADE
Have you made anything positive come from this unimaginable loss? Did you find any blessings among all the sadness and sorrow?
I have huge issues with the people that look at our journey since January and go “but look at all the good you are doing” – which is precisely why I made myself this, out of some cathartic need to just say to the world – no, stop trying to balance out my grief with the good stuff that has happened since.
I would trade all of the good to have my son back. Nothing we do, or create will ever right the wrong of his death. I understand that there are good things that have happened; a better perspective on life, lessons learnt about friendships, new friendships, money raised, awareness raised etc etc. But why do I have to see the good in my consolation prize for my sons death? Why can’t it just be a case of “your son’s died, and that’s shit”. I understand there has been good but I don’t wish for it to be celebrated in the same breathe as acknowledging my son’s death and stillbirth, our lifelong anguish for him, the unknowns, the pain, the grief, the hurt, the secondary losses.
It’s some pretty shitty lemons just to get some bitter lemonade. That good comes with so much bad. You don’t have to be all sunshine and joy about it, just because something good came out of it.
I appreciate this post sounds pretty bitter – but ours son’s death isn’t just a blip or some small event. It’s life changing. I can’t be consoled on that just because something good happened as a result.
DAY 13 : DEAR WORLD
What is on your heart that you want the world to know about your kind of grief? This is your day to choose your own topic. Some topic ideas are pregnancy or infertility after loss. Anxiety or PTSD. Forgiveness. Trust. What is it that you want to talk about?
Being able to talk about anything within our grief is a bit too unstructured for me! But the first thing that came to mind was to talk about our little ‘niche’ of being lesbian stillbirth parents. We aren’t the only ones obviously, but it is like a small little corner of the small little club.
The Wife often says that she rarely sees anyone that looks like us, which is precisely why I share our story wherever and whenever we can. If you can’t find people out there that look like you, you need to be that person, for you and for other people.
I’ll admit we sit on the right side of legal, political and social development when it comes to LGBT rights – although, as a 16/17/18 year old looking into it all, civil partnerships were just coming in, marriage was way off, the legalities of parental rights and/or adoption were messy, and gay people had only recently been allowed to join the military. Needless to say, we wouldn’t have had to be that much older and this journey would have had a lot more issues involved.
When Leo died, and we had such a need to ‘fix’ it all and get pregnant again, it was the first time either of us felt that our sexuality was preventing us from something that we wanted so much. Parenthood.
I don’t feel being gay has impacted our grief in any way, it’s not that services or support misunderstands or excludes us. However, I do think it creates some slightly different layers to it all – from fertility treatment, through to stillbirth and grief.
We went to the Londons Womens Clinic initially for three IUIs – we wanted somewhere that was used to dealing with gay parents, but their complacency over just our lack of sperm and my apparent “youth and health” meant we weren’t treated in the same way, in my opinion. Moving to our current clinic, they don’t view us as just lacking sperm, they view us as other patients. When we started, I didn’t think we needed that. I too just thought we were lacking sperm.
Whilst for us the layers of biology, treatment and sexuality don’t impact our grief – I think it’s a worthwhile thing to consider for services and support avenues. Everyone is different after all.
DAY 14 : BELIEFS AND SPIRITUALITY
Has the death of your child strengthened or changed your beliefs? Share as much or as little as you like. Please be respectful to the beliefs of others today. We are all in this together and our differences are what make this project so beautifully interesting. Choose kindness.
I missed this prompt yesterday, mainly because it didn’t really speak to me. I have no traditional beliefs in that religion isn’t really my thing. But I was trying to work out yesterday, ‘what do I actually believe in?’ – what gives me the comfort that allows me to carry on? What encourages me to keep walking through this live, fighting for it? What is it that gives me the faith that there is light in all this darkness?
Ultimately, I guess I believe in love. Leo taught us what we are fighting for. Leo taught us what it meant to have a child and to love them; without fear, without reservations and without conditions. He went and died on us, and whilst that is pretty poor behaviour in our books, we still love him. Somedays we are angry, but we still love him. Somedays we loose all hope, but we still love him. Whilst we would trade this life, and this pain, we wouldn’t trade him because we love him. He is our son, we would have him dead than not at all. We would choose this pain and despair over never knowing him. I believe in that love, that pure emotion that is unwaveringly apart of us, and combines me and The Wife together.
I guess everything else is a result of that? After giving birth to my dead child, I felt happy and I felt love in amidst indescribable pain.
That it is possible to love like that – that’s what I believe in.
DAY 15 : WAVE OF LIGHT
October 15th Wave of Light is a very significant day of remembrance and awareness of our community calendar. At 7pm you are invited to light a candle to honour and remember all of the babies and children who have died. If everyone does this, there will be a continuous wave of light around the world for 24 hours. Share your candles and children with the world.
DAY 16 : FULL MOON RETREAT
We are now half way through our Capture Your Grief experience so I wanted to take some time to retreat a little and give everyone some rest from all the thoughts and feels. This evening there is going to be a beautiful full moon rising. Google the time that it rises in your city and take some quiet time out to watch it. Share a photo of the moon rising in your part of the world and make sure you share where you watch it from. Today take regular moments out to stop what you are doing and turn your attention to your breathing. Place one hand over your belly and the other over your heart. Close your eyes, breathe deeply as you feel your own heartbeat. I will be hosting a live guided meditation on facebook and everyone is welcome to join in. I will post the time of the meditation closer to the day.
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” – Sarah Dessen
(This photo I happened to snap two nights ago, luckily, as tonight’s moon is nowhere to be seen.)
DAY 17 : SACRED SPACE
Do you have a special place that you visit to be with your children? A place that you feel connected to? Maybe it is their grave, or a beautiful garden, beach or forest. Maybe it is a special spot dedicated to them in your home, like a shrine or altar. What does this place mean to you? Why that place?
We do have a few ‘spaces’ that are Leo’s that are there to provide us with comfort, such as our garden, his room, his candles, his grave. Yet, quite early on we decided we didn’t want to be too precious over these spaces and the material aspect of them. I didn’t want to end up grieving the loss of something that represented him or our love for him, just incase something broke for example. So I’ve tried really hard to find comfort in our memories and our photos of him, talking about him and writing about him. This is usually what keeps me calm. The Wife is a little different, and will feel a pull to visit him at the cemetery on a bad day, more so than I do now.
But because I don’t feel overly precious, things get messy. The garden has now been termed “the garden of death” because we have failed miserably at keeping anything but lavender alive, so it provides no comfort at all right now – but in Spring it was my go-to place. And recently, his room has become a dumping ground for ‘stuff’. We hadn’t let it get that bad since he had died, and we could tell it’s negative affect on our desire to be in there and on the comfort that we had normally found from it.
Peeking ahead and seeing this prompt gave me the desire to tidy and sort it out, fill the empty photo frames and restore its sacredness yesterday. I felt instantly better for doing so. I’m yet to feel any need to pack up his room; I’m waiting for someone else to need it.
DAY 18 : HEALING THERAPIES
Have you discovered any healing therapies in your life after loss? Please share what has helped you.
I haven’t really thrown myself into anything structured since loosing Leo, for various reasons, although I am open to anything and everything. I am half way through a course of counselling and the jury is still out.
What I would say was that my initial period of ‘healing’ came from writing. I know I’ve talked about it before, but it was literally the only thing that calmed me and still is sometimes. To process, to understand, to explain. I have found it to have a lot of healing properties, and would recommend it to anyone – whether privately or publicly.
In grief, I’ve found my mind running so fast, from one anxious thought to another. Sometimes, there is value in letting it run – to think those things allows us to admit what our scariest fears are. There is also value in structuring them into some form of a sentence. To admitting them to a piece of paper or a keyboard. And then to sharing them with others, maybe just one or two, or the whole world. It’s a release to allow the world to acknowledge those feelings, to take a small element of ownership of them, and to allow yourself the freedom of giving them away to the world.
What is particularly healing is learning that it is all normal. Normalising grief is the biggest thing I have gained from writing and reading others experiences. Without knowing how others feel, you can feel incredibly isolated and the feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety about your grief or actions just eat away at you. Once someone else has said ‘me too’, ‘I understand’ or ‘this is so spot on’ then you can breathe and allow yourself to not worry about those feelings, but just feel them. That freedom is so healing.
DAY 19 : GRIEF RITUALS
Creating rituals in grief do wonders for healing your heart. Do you have any grief rituals? Maybe something you do on special dates like birthdays or anniversaries? How do these rituals help you?
I don’t think we have rituals as such, I think having something as firm as a ritual could potentially open us up for falling if we failed to keep to it. We do however have things that keep us close to Leo or help on tough days, or big events. We don’t always need them, but they are there for when we do.
Most nights, we will light his candles and say goodnight when we go to bed.
Every day we wear some form of Leo jewellery, mainly our Leo bracelets that our niece made when he was born, and one of many necklaces
If I have to go to something a little scary, I will more often than not put on my Leo dress – a dress I got specifically for his funeral. It gives me a little boost in my confidence to know I survived that day with it on, so anything else is survivable too
If we are going to an event that he should be at, or celebrating a birthday perhaps, where possible we visit him first. Making him part of the day helps fill that whole
If we can, we take his footprints (when they aren’t on holiday) or a sharpie, or find some sticks to write his name somewhere
These are our little grief rituals.
They help keep him alive and remembered and help to keep his close.
DAY 20 : GRATITUDE
Telling people to be grateful while they are grieving is kind of absurd. You cannot force a person to feel gratitude, just like you cannot force someone to feel forgiveness. You either feel it or you don’t. I remember when I started on this journey of grief, people always said count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. I remember wanting to scream in their faces! But I took note of what they were saying and I started keeping a gratitude journal. I started writing down anything I felt grateful for and before to long gratitude lifted me out of a dark pit of despair. What are thoughts about gratitude? Do you feel it and if so, share something you are grateful for.
Gratitude is a difficult thing to look for at times when you are in the depths of grief. It isn’t to say that just because we can find things to be thankful for, that we aren’t still pissed at the world for letting Leo die, but it is possible to look at our situation and identify the things that we are thankful for.
At Leo’s funeral, we thanked him for hanging around long enough so that we could meet him. We cherished that we got to know him, despite his death. We are thankful for his existence.
We are also thankful for certain people in our lives and for the support we have been shown. Again, that doesn’t mean we aren’t still pissed at those who has disappointed or surprised us – you can feel both
We are thankful for each other, for our ability to grieve together, to know each other well enough that we can support each other.
We are thankful for our ability to talk openly, to share, to engage in the Baby Loss community. Without being able to do that – we would have switched ourselves off to an abundance of support and lessons.
Counting your blessings doesn’t have to reject the negative, it isn’t a softener to your pain and it cannot erase the hurt or experiences. It’s a misused phrase I think, that undermines its true meaning.
I am still thankful. I am very aware that this situation could have gone differently at different stages, which would have given us additional challenges. I have gratitude for the relative ease of some choices or opportunities we had, despite how hard they still were.